MALLORY PARK, 12 MARCH 2006

START THE SEASON WITH A BANG

For Ecurie Scalpel the 2006 season started as the 2005 season ended – with another mechanical failure. Having run two seasons with a single failure the last five successive events have been blighted with some form of mechanical disaster – thankfully though mostly not too expensive.

The traditional season opener run by the 750 Motor Club is always held at Mallory Park and the weather is usually something of a lottery. In this case however it was more extreme than usual with the entire practice session run in freezing conditions with snow falling! Furthermore the circuit doctors were stuck in snow in the northwest of England and would not arrive until lunchtime. So to save the day your truly was asked to act as medical cover along with hospital colleague and cardiac surgeon, Steve Griffin, who happened to be racing at the same meeting. At least we managed to spend some time sitting in the medical car which was a lot warmer than the paddock.

For the season taster we took out the BMC Mk1 (Huffaker) armed with new driveshafts and brand new rear tyres. Practice was therefore somewhat tricky on a snowy track with new rubber and the best that can be said is that we survived intact. So cold was it that the tyres looked exactly the same after the few laps completed and were not even slightly scrubbed. All the work would have to be done in the race. Of the entire field only one car broke the one minute barrier which is an indication of the conditions.

For the afternoon the snow did indeed stop but it remained bitterly cold. We got one lap out of the assembly area and then a full green flag lap before forming up on the grid for the start. The plan was to get ahead of the two front engined rivals – Bill Grimshaw in his unique Moorland (the predecessor of the Gemini) and Crispen Besley in his Elva 100. By the entry to the fast sweeper at Gerards the BMC had dealt with the Elva and was alongside the Gemini. Gerards is the longest constant radius corner in the UK and impressively fast at the exit where it leads onto the back straight at full throttle in top. Just before the exit the BMC lurched sideways in a lurid slide with wheels spinning. Slide caught the cockpit then filled up with steam before the field charged off towards the Esses. Steam gone we continued around the lap before Gerards again where the engine suddenly lost power and I switched off immediately and coasted around to retire. Not even one flying lap completed after all that trouble!

Back in the paddock the engine cover was lifted and even I could identify the problem! A core plug had blown out of the side of the engine and sprayed all the water out – some over me but mostly over Duncan Rabagliati who was following me in his trusty Alexis! At least we both got a brief warming shower in the cold weather. This is really a very unusual thing to happen to a BMC and of course we have never touched the engine since the car arrived from Germany for 2004. Well now is the time to have it out and see what needs doing. Engines certainly seem to be our weak point right now but this completes the set for the Ecurie. For the record, the race was won by Mark Woodhouse in his Lotus 20 followed by Steve Smith (Cooper T59) and Barry Westmorland (Lotus 22).

The BMC had been entered for Cadwell at the end of April but we have switched over to the Lotus for that event until we see what is required. The BMC had to be in fine fettle for Goodwood in September.

Next up for us is Donington Park at the start of April where the Surtees and newly configured Crossle will try and improve fortunes and stay together.

Postscripts:

An interested visitor to the Paddock yesterday was Irish racing legend Tommy Reid. Now is in seventies Tommy is still racing and is currently preparing a Lotus 22 for Junior events. We spent some time talking about whether a Chevron F2 car running a Hart 420R would be competitive in the Derek Bell races. Hypothetical conversation? Not a bit of it – Tommy’s car is almost ready and old man or not I predict he will give some folk a rude awakening. Seventy or not you don’t forget how to do it!!

Simon Diffey had his Lotus 20 out with newly installed drum brakes (a la Monaco spec). Unfortunately the pipe connector at the drum end split on a rear wheel leaking fluid into the drum which then burst into flames. Simon soon noticed the fire marshals shaking their extinguishers at him. He was really motoring at that stage having started from the back of the grid – another story – and naturally assumed they were simply encouraging him to go faster!! The smell of burning eventually stopped him! Racers eh!

 

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